Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Afternoon shots...

Ziva loves tennis balls. Joy on four feet.

Our new Muscovy drake is such a handsome guy. He likes his little kiddie pool.

I am not sure what this flower is. I got it at a nursery this summer and it has been blooming and blooming, even through three pretty hard frosts.

The afternoon light shows off how pretty the Partridge Rock chickens feathers are. They fairly glow.

I found the body of Clara bunny this morning at dawn. It seems she died in her sleep. She looked very peaceful. Daughter Rachel brought Clara home 5 or 6 years ago. I didn't want a bunny, or her big fancy cage, but there she was. She was terribly unhappy living in confinement. She would throw her body at the bars that confined her. One day I couldn't take it any more and let her loose. I thought that even a few days of freedom would be preferable to a lifetime of misery. She lived free for years. In stormy weather she would hang out in the cozy chicken coop. When the windfall apples plopped to the ground she would help herself. We had a sweet routine; each morning she would hop to greet me. I would give her a carrot and a handful of sunflower seeds and scratch grains. Every few weeks I'd catch her and give her a once over to make sure she was OK. She was fine... sleek and fit and ready to be set free again. That rabbit I didn't want brought me a lot of joy. She just looked so happy in her freedom. She made me happy, too. I will miss her, but I am glad I opened her cage that day to let her live a full bunny life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October joys...

Sweet daughter Rachel came home for the weekend. It is always fun to have her here. She had friends in and out and here for supper both nights. On Saturday Chris cooked a feast of marinated, grilled shrimp, along with black beans and rice. After supper I was outside taking care of the animals and it made my heart sing to see the warm lights from the house spilling out on the frosty grass. Happier still was hearing the laughter of the people who lingered around the table. Soul music.

Rachel and our friend Megan bought pumpkins on Sunday, and we watched a movie while we carved them up.

Rachel wore her glow in the dark skeleton earrings to add to the atmosphere...

I am not very artistic in the pumpkin carving arena. I looked on line and saw some beautiful designs,well above my skill level. So I looked for "carving pumpkins for kids" and found this cute cat design.

Poppy the pug has been watching us carve pumpkins for 14 years. She thinks its a yawn, but appreciates the warm laps that are available.

Rachel's owl jack 'o lantern is so cute! And Megan's winking face is fun!

Our efforts will adorn the deck this week, flickering happily into the dark nights of autumn.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beanpots and clutter...

A few weeks ago my friend Megan and I went into Belfast and poked around the wonderful shops there. We walked past one shop that I had never been into, and I was attracted to the sign by the door. It said that everything in the store was made in America, even the fixtures and shelving. What a neat idea! Of course we went in. There was beautiful pottery, wonderfully displayed. And I saw this:

It's a bean pot,lovingly hand crafted with a lid that fits to perfection. It is the sort of pot one would slowly bake beans in on a cold winter day. I have few memories of my grandmother, Marion Waters, because she died when I was six. But I do remember her immaculate house, decorated with polished Colonial type antiques. To my mind it always smelled like molasses kissed beans baking. I wanted to learn to make baked beans the way she did. Fast forward a whole lot of years and one of my favorite guys invited us over to have dinner at their house. He had made a pot of beans,and they were delicious. I was quite impressed and told him I wanted to learn to make them, too. He very generously gave me a bean pot. His mother had given it to him, and I loved it because it was the color of the one you see here, but without the decorative vine. I had never seen one that color before. They are usually sort of a two tone brown and beige, not my favorite. I made one pot of beans, and they were pretty good. Before I could make another pot our bad Boxer dog jumped up on the table and smashed my gifted pot. I was bereft and have spent a couple years looking for one like it, with no success. So I was delighted to discover this pot, and splurged a little to bring it home. I can hardly wait to try it out.
My sister Deb came to visit last weekend. She helped me cut the soap that I blogged about in the last post. It is now curing under an old linen cloth, and my kitchen smells of lavender. Deb announced that she wanted to have a project while she was here. She is good at a lot of things, but sitting still is not one of them. I mentioned that I had never really gotten my porch into good shape this year, and maybe we could tidy it up. We use the porch a lot for the Thanksgiving holiday, it makes a nice walk in refrigerator most years! My idea was that we'd dust and vacuum and make things look neater. HER idea was to take most everything out of the room and then bleach down the walls from ceiling to floor! I discovered, to my deep chagrin, that my poor porch had a lot more clutter than I had realized. We took all the nick knacks and decorations off and dumped them in the middle of the dining room table.

Ugh! So much stuff. I have been washing my favorite pieces this week, and today I will go through and "edit," boxing up many items to take to Goodwill. Meanwhile the porch is a large, empty space now.
Here is the view to the left as you enter:

And to the right:

This porch is what made me fall in love, hard, with this house when we saw it on a dreary March day 10 years ago. I could picture sitting here, smelling the perfume from the then barren lilac bushes that were ratting in the cold wind outside the window. I could imagine summer suppers while the sun set and long chats over a companionable glass of wine with friends. It is a wonderful space and I am happy that my sister helped me clear things up so the space is more welcoming. I will be careful about what goes back out here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Soap Making..!

I'll admit it. I've been afraid to try my hand at making soap. I even took a class and bought a kit to make my first effort less intimidating, but I put the thing off. Until yesterday.
With the help of my sweet daughter and friend, I took the plunge.

Much of my hesitation was because making soap involves math, something I am woefully inept at, and chemicals that can cause serious burns, and chemistry. Scary stuff. We wore gloves and coated my counter tops with plastic in case of spills. I read and re-read the instructions. Then we got to it. The first step was mixing the lye with water. The chemical reaction causes the water to heat up to around 200 degrees, so I put the bowl in an ice water bath and monitored the temperature while we did the other steps.

While the lye was cooling we heated up some goat milk, and melted the oils in a big pot.
Rachel and Megan went to the garden and picked some lavender to add to the soap.

Once the lye mix was cool enough, we added sweet, fresh milk from my good Luna goat.

The next step was to mix the lye with the melted oils and stir, for a very long time.We took turns.

When everything was well mixed and had thickened appropriately, we poured the liquid soap into pans I had bought just for this purpose. After the soap has cured I will cut it into nice, little squares.

We added the lavender to one pan.

Once the soap was in the molds we covered it with heavy cardboard, and wrapped it in a thick blanket. When 24 hours have passed I can uncover it, but it has to cure for a month before it will be ready to use.

It was so much fun I can't wait to make more!

Fire wood...

In a previous blog I showed two huge piles of wood in our driveway.
I helped move some of it, but most of the work was done by this guy...

Chris braved the spidery basement, hauled and dumped and stacked all that wood. There is a bit more to do, but most of the winters fire wood supply is at the ready. It is a good feeling to know that no matter how the cold winds blow we will be cozy in our sweet home.

Reason number 987 why I love Maine...

On my way home from work Saturday, I took what my fun brother calls a "scenic long cut." I took my time, I wasn't in a rush, I enjoyed the scenery. When I saw this...

These beautiful, hand made fall wreaths were in the yard of a lovely old farm house. I pulled right into the driveway, and knocked on the door of the house. No one answered. I was sad, I wanted to bring a wreath home. Then I saw this...

There are so very many places where a system like this would NOT work. I happily put my money in the "honest" jar and chose my wreath. I love living in Maine.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A near brush with death (or at least, maiming...)

This story involves a few brushes with death, one more serious than the others. It begins on Wednesday night, when I cruelly kicked the two Muscovy ducks out of the chicken coop. They like to sleep there, inside the tidy nest boxes. While they sleep, they poop enormous, wet, stinky poops. And no one wants poo in their nest boxes, because that makes for very icky eggs.Not only are they messy, but they beat up the chickens in the morning when the innocent things hop off their roost. I often go outside at dawn to hear terrible thumping and the voices out outraged hens calling from the coop. When I peek in I see bad ducks chasing the sleepy chickens and trying to rip their feathers out. And to top things off, I have 6 brand new teenaged chickens that I just got, and they have not figured out how to roost yet, so they would be "sitting ducks" for the "pecking ducks." There are other places for the ducks to sleep. We have a duck house, a cozy calf hutch, and even the shed where the goats and pony hang out would make a nice spot. So I only felt a twinge of guilt when I booted them out that night.

My guilt gained new heights in the morning when I woke to find the duck on the right gone. The birds have very predictable routines. When I go out at dawn the ducks greet me, heads low, making plaintive noises until I bring them a scoop of food. On this morning there was just one duck.She looked a bit shaken. I glanced around and became convinced that something had eaten the missing one. I felt horrible. The other duck looks lonely and a little worried. She goes in the coop much earlier than usual now, and I leave her there.

Today, (Friday) I was doing evening chores and visiting with the critters. The horse was grazing next to me, and I spied a sturdy muck bucket nearby. I pulled it over to her, upended it and then climbed up. I swung a leg over the ponies bare back and hopped on. She was not amused. She put her ears back and stomped up to the gate. I just sat there, thinking after a bit she'd wander around and I'd just sit on her and feel happy. She had other ideas and broke into a brisk trot, heading for the shed. The shed with low overhead. I leaned down, hugging her neck so I wasn't decapitated, and once in the shed slid off. My ride was unsuccessful, her beheading me was also a bust. That was the first brush with death.

A bit later something caught my eye. I walked out into the meadow and gave a hard took at some white material in the grass that I had earlier thought was milkweed down. I realized that it was really downy feathers from a duck. Then I remembered that this morning Ziva dog had spent a LONG time sniffing around in the very back corner of the pasture. So I headed down to see if I could find anything of note. Soon I saw more feathers, and then, at the very edge of the fence I found the remains of my poor duck. Whatever killed her had eaten her head and neck, and all her breast meat, and the rest of her was in a forlorn pile in the grass. (This was the most serious brush with death, oh, my poor, poor duck.) I dispatched what was left of her, and headed back up towards the house. Meanwhile, the horse and baby goats had followed me to the spot where I had found her, and they remained behind, grazing. I walked partway up to the house then sat on the overturned muck bucket and contemplated life and death and the earthy nature of living on a tiny farm. Ziva frolicked around me, dropping her tennis ball for me to throw over and over. In the midst of tossing it off to the right of me I heard a sound and looked up.

Galloping towards me (and my pony never gallops!) were the two terrified looking baby goats and the clearly upset horse. I believe they were spooked by the scent of whatever animal ate the duck, or by the smell of blood, but either way, they were moving fast, in my direction. The goats veered away from me, but the horse was headed blindly directly towards where I sat on my bucket. I had visions of my husband returning from work to find me trampled in a bloody heap there in the pasture. I jumped up, waving my arms, "WHOA!" She veered away at the last second, dusting past so close I could feel the air from her movement rust past me. That was death brush #3. After my heart stopped pounding at an unnaturally swift rate of speed, I finished up chores and counted my blessings.

I will miss that good duck, and we will try to make sure no more animals fall prey to whatever carried her off.